Author Archives: Clare Piro

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About Clare Piro

Clare Piro is the owner of Clare A. Piro Attorney and Mediator in Harrison, New York.
EMAIL: clare@clarepiromediation.com
BIO: About Clare

Splitting the Difference May Not Be the Best Outcome
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
Splitting the Difference May Not Be the Best Outcome | Clare Piro

{3:18 minutes to read} In my past life advocating for clients in an adversarial process, getting to the point of splitting the difference was the last settlement proposal, and timing was everything. If your first offer is close to what you really want, there will be little room left to split the difference if your adversary low-balls their demand. For example, if you are looking for $5000 and ask for $5000 in support and your spouse offers $2000, you are going to lose in the “split the difference” scenario. So this practice encourages unrealistic offers and counteroffers, resulting in annoyance and insults (“How dare you!”) and prolonged negotiation.
 
More importantly and disappointingly, splitting the difference probably doesn’t meet the interests of either client, since it is merely a mathematical formula based upon meaningless offers to begin with. But it is a way that parties can settle, and to paraphrase something that’s repeated time and again in litigation: “a good settlement is when both parties leave unhappy.” Or, in other words, both parties lose.

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Hanging Out the Mediator Shingle Does Not Make You a Qualified Mediator
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
Hanging Out the Mediator Shingle Does Not Make You a Qualified Mediator | Clare Piro

{4:18 minutes to read} I’ve heard many complaints regarding divorce mediation:

  • “It might be okay for simple matters but not for anything complicated.”
  • “It’s too touch-feely.”
  • “You give up all of your rights when you mediate.”
These types of complaints are easily dismissed as biased and uninformed; however, there are some complaints I’ve heard which I agree should be taken seriously.

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No Whining on the Yacht
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No Whining on the Yacht | Clare Piro

{4:00 minutes to read} I recently heard an interview of Connie Shultz, the spouse of Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. She shared that since 2007, the motto of her life has been "no whining on the yacht." It began after her husband had just been elected Senator. She was publishing her second book, and life was good. At one point, she complained to her editor about the deletion of a litany of stories detailing the wrongs she felt occurred in the senate race. Her editor insisted the sections remain out and said “no whining on the yacht.” She reminded Connie how much in her life was going well, and that she really didn’t need to focus on every slight when she was in such a good place.

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Helpful Guidelines to Follow in Mediation
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Helpful Guidelines to Follow in Mediation | Clare Piro

{3:54 minutes to read} After working with a couple who had particularly good communication skills and consequently had achieved an agreement with relative ease, I gave some thought as to how this couple was different from some of my other clients. And then I remembered that, following the first 100 days of the new administration, my friend and fellow mediator, Ada Hasloecher, posted five lessons for parties in mediation. I decided I couldn’t do it any better myself, so with her permission, I am reprinting her post. Thank you, Ada!

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Will Nesting Work for Us?
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Will Nesting Work for Us? | Clare Piro

{4:24 minutes to read} Nesting is a shared parenting concept that allows the children to stay in the marital home while the parents go back and forth. The idea is that the children will be able to remain in one familiar place, have no concerns about where they are on what day or what they need to take with them. Typically, parents who choose this will be sharing time in the home with the children on an equal basis. To see if this might work for you, consider the following: Long Term or Short Term? My experience has been working with clients who have agreed to do this on a short-term basis for the following reasons:

  • Wanting to separate now, but unsure where each wants to live.
  • Waiting to place the marital home on the market or waiting for a sale.
  • Giving it a year for the children to adjust to not being with either parent full time.

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The Satisfying Life of a Mediator
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The Satisfying Life of a Mediator | Clare Piro

{3:54 minutes to read} I just returned from the annual gathering of the NYS Conference on Divorce Mediation. This is my 12th conference, and I was as excited to go to this one as I was to my first. While the focus is on education with plenaries and workshops on various aspects of family law and mediation theory, there is undeniably another element that plays a very big part. Whether we do it full time or not, are experienced mediators or just starting out, we all feel that we are doing something that is fulfilling and gives us satisfaction. And we all want to share our knowledge and experiences with our colleagues and support each other in a way that I have never found in other professional organizations.

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What You Should Consider When Mediating College Expenses – Part 3
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What You Should Consider When Mediating College Expenses - Part 3 | Clare Piro

{3:06 minutes to read} In the previous part of this series, we looked at parental considerations in relation to a child’s college education. In this final post, we will discuss the child’s role with regard to their college education and any credits against child support. Should there be a contribution from the child? Do you believe that the child should be responsible to pay for part of college, through loans or otherwise?

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What You Should Consider When Mediating College Expenses – Part 2
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What You Should Consider When Mediating College Expenses - Part 2 | Clare Piro

{3:18 minutes to read} In Part 1 of this series, we looked at parental considerations in relation to a child’s college education. In Part 2, we will define typical college expenses and look at limits on what a parent will contribute. How do you define “college expenses? Is it just tuition, room and board, or do you want to consider other typical expenses that will be due?

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What You Should Consider When Mediating College Expenses
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What You Should Consider When Mediating College Expenses | Clare Piro

{4:00 minutes to read} Certain children’s expenses must be paid in addition to child support, according to the child support statute: medical insurance premiums, unreimbursed medical expenses and child care expenses. These are mandatory add-ons. Then, there are expenses that may be ordered at or in the Court’s discretion, including post-secondary educational expenses. The Court will consider the parties’ circumstances and what is in the best interest of the child at the time the child would be entering college.

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Agreeing to Agree
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Agreeing to Agree | Clare Piro

{4:00 minutes to read} I often caution clients against including language in their agreement which is basically just an agreement to agree: anything that begins with “The parties will agree upon...” or “The parties agree to review...” But it depends on the issue and on the couple. Sometimes it makes sense not to spend an enormous amount of time either on something that is not all that contentious or something not likely to happen. Other times, though, leaving big decisions for the future is just putting off an inevitable conflict that should be addressed now. Here are some examples of terms that may or may not need to be spelled out completely, depending on the term and the couple.

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Disclosure is Not Optional
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Disclosure is Not Optional | Clare Piro

{3:36 minutes to read} I recently attended a panel discussion on how to determine income in a matrimonial mediation. The panel consisted of a litigator, a mediator and a financial professional. The idea was to show the different approaches each would take in cases where income was hard to determine, such as self-employed parties, cash income, other complicated financial situations, or when a party just refuses to disclose relevant information. That got me to thinking about disclosure in general and how it can evolve in mediation.

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When Moving On is More Important Than Discerning the Truth
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When Moving On is More Important Than Discerning the Truth | Clare Piro

{3:48 minutes to read} While the history of a client’s relationship is obviously relevant to them, its relevance to the mediation is not necessarily the same. If there is a dispute as to whether or not an event occurred, my role is not to determine the truth. That would be in the realm of litigation. In mediation, its relevance has to do with the effect that those beliefs about past events have on each party’s ability to work with the other in the process and reach a resolution.

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The Power of a Sincere Apology
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The Power of a Sincere Apology | Clare Piro

{3:24 minutes to read} I thought it was interesting that the Personal Health columnist for the New York Times, Dr. Jane Brody, wrote a column entitled “The Right Way to Say I’m Sorry.” She posits that taking responsibility for your actions and offering a true apology to someone you’ve hurt actually is a matter of your own health and well being. Dr. Brody refers to these words from Harriet Lerner’s Why Won’t You Apologize? as to why an apology can be “central to health, both physical and emotional.”

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So, What Do You Think I Should Do?
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So, What Do You Think I Should Do? | Clare Piro

{3:24 minutes to read} One question that I’m asked by clients fairly often is, “Do you think I should accept this?” Or “Is it good for me to do x, y or z?” I understand why a client would ask. But, like the question, “Do you think that this is fair?” it’s not one that a mediator can answer (Fair is in the Eye of the Beholder]. It certainly seems expedient, especially if the couple just wants it all to be over. The mediator understands the facts and the law and is certainly capable of answering the question. So, why not?

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Unemployment While Negotiating an Agreement
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Unemployment While Negotiating an Agreement | Clare Piro

{3:48 minutes to read} Unfortunately, people who are getting divorced are not exempt from downsizing, market fluctuations, facility closings, etc. which can lead to a period of unemployment. How can divorcing couples factor in this development as they work through separating their households and assets? How do they cope with this monumental change in their lives, on top of this monumental change in their lifestyle? If one of you is unemployed, it may not be entirely within your power to resolve the situation. If the unemployment has been for an extended period of time, or if you are older in a younger or no longer relevant industry, your concerns may be magnified.

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The Stark Reality of a Separation Agreement
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The Stark Reality of a Separation Agreement | Clare Piro

{3:54 minutes to read} I met recently with a couple (I’ll call them “Mary” and “John”) to review their Separation Agreement. All went well, with a few minor changes agreed upon during our meeting. Then, towards the end of the Agreement, a provision came up for review at which John expressed surprise. Mary and I were perplexed. This had not only been discussed fully at a previous session, but over the course of several months, had appeared in writing in:

  • A summary of the meeting;
  • A summary of the terms agreed upon; and
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd drafts of the Agreement.

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I Just Want What I Would Get in Court
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I Just Want What I Would Get in Court | Clare Piro

{3:12 minutes to read} There are so many sources of information available to someone in the process of divorce:

  • Attorney consultation;
  • Financial divorce professional consultation;
  • The internet;
  • Their friend, hairdresser, cousin, sister or co-worker .
Some are clearly less reliable than others. In fact, it’s rare for me to see clients who haven’t received some version of what they believe their rights and obligations under the law to be. This information can take on enormous importance to them if they believe it is “the law,” especially if it benefits them. Needless to say, when the information is inaccurate or is based upon a totally different set of facts and circumstances, it can lead to a mindset that is not particularly helpful in mediation.

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Child Support Where Parents Share Equal Access with the Children
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Child Support Where Parents Share Equal Access with the Children | Clare Piro

{4:00 minutes to read} In New York, case law provides that when parents share equal physical custody of the children, the parent who earns more pays child support to the parent who earns less, based on the Child Support Standards Act. If there is a great disparity between their incomes, that might make sense. But if there is less than a substantial difference and both parents need to maintain a household for the children, applying the statute can put one parent in financial peril.

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Why Do Divorcing Couples Mediate?
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Why Do Divorcing Couples Mediate? | Clare Piro

{3:18 minutes to read} After my initial mediation training, I developed a sense of why I thought clients would choose to mediate their divorce. Since I was so invigorated by the knowledge of this amazing process, I assumed they would choose to mediate because they wanted to engage in a process in which they could learn how to communicate their interests to each other and then brainstorm creative resolutions to meet those interests in a collaborative and non-adversarial setting. When I actually began working with my own clients, needless to say, I was a little disappointed to learn that the primary reason the vast majority of my clients gave for mediating their divorce was to lessen their costs. Not that I minimized the fact that cost is a very legitimate reason to mediate, but I unrealistically expected that clients would recite those same lofty reasons as caused me to choose to no longer practice in an adversarial setting and become a mediator.

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Nobody Said Mediation Would Be Easy
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Nobody Said Mediation Would Be Easy | Clare Piro

{3:54 minutes to read} Since I write so often about the benefits of mediation, I think it’s time that I acknowledge something I often share with clients at the initial consultation. After I have explained the basics of mediation, I say that I think mediation can be a hard thing to do and commend them for making that choice. And while I firmly believe that it is the best option to resolve conflict, I’ll admit it’s still not an easy process.

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Payments in Addition to Child Support???
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Payments in Addition to Child Support??? | Clare Piro

{3.36 minutes to read} I try to avoid jargon when working with clients. When I’m not successful, it’s easy to spot by the looks on clients’ faces when they have no idea what I’m talking about. One of these is the phrase “add-ons to child support,” which I tend to use before offering an explanation. This is a very common phrase to professionals who work with separating parents. For the parents themselves, not so much.

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Why I Provide an Initial Consultation at No Charge
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Why I Provide an Initial Consultation at No Charge | Clare Piro

{3:42 minutes to read} A couple of years ago, I was a member of a panel discussion regarding client intake in mediation and collaborative matters. The audience was primarily attorneys, and I mentioned that I provided an initial consultation at no charge. A matrimonial attorney, who probably had just a few more years experience than I, was incredulous. She said that she hadn’t given a free consultation since she was a “baby attorney.” I guess I should have been insulted, but I wasn’t. I explained that when I represented individual clients in a matrimonial matter, I always billed for a consultation. At that meeting, we discussed substantive matters, and I provided valuable information over the course of a 1½- to 2-hour consultation.

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A Shift to the Extreme is Everywhere
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A Shift to the Extreme is Everywhere | Clare Piro

{3:12 minutes to read} My first ritual of the fall entails my husband and I getting a flu shot, going out for brunch, and then going shopping for Halloween. Just in case there is an area of the yard or a surface in the house that is not already adorned with Halloween decor, we are always on the lookout for interesting pieces. At this point we seek out things that are unique, clever, or attractive, like some vintage pieces or Day of the Dead figurines.

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The Power of Acknowledgment
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The Power of Acknowledgment | Clare Piro

{3:42 minutes to read} Dog training was never a strong suit for my husband or me, but our new dog, Toby, proved to be in desperate need of some consistent direction and attention. We hired a trainer to come to the house. I also dug out all of our training books and searched online for new techniques when some of the things we were doing didn’t seem to suit Toby or me.

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How The Start of School Can Impact a Parenting Plan
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How The Start of School Can Impact a Parenting Plan | Clare Piro

{3:54 minutes to read} When I litigated, there were two times of year when I would receive quite a few calls from parents questioning a current or proposed parenting plan. The first was in December and centered around sharing the children during the holidays. The other, as the topic of this post indicates, was in September and centered around issues raised by the return to school. Just like those unhappy children who have to leave the freedom of summer for the restriction of a classroom, there are unhappy parents who feel that access while school is in session should be different from access during the summer.

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End of Summer? Oh, No!
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End of Summer? Oh, No! | Clare Piro

{2:36 minutes to read} I am one of those people who enjoys the changing of the seasons, even when it means that summer is over. However, I’m not one of those people who feel that summer is over on the 5th of July. Even if we measure summer as Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are still two full months of summer to enjoy after the 4th of July. Why not savor these two months when it’s still 90 degrees in the shade instead of focusing on winter coming? Conversely, people who tend to see summer as over on July 5th don’t tend to see winter as being over January 2nd. In fact, it’s much easier for them to become mired in the inconveniences of snow and ice. They may have a tendency to dwell on what they perceive as negative periods that they have to endure and not recognize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel—and that at some point, they will get there.

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When It Comes to Marital Assets, Pensions are Different
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When It Comes to Marital Assets, Pensions are Different | Clare Piro

{3:30 minutes to read} When I began practicing family law, one of the first lessons I learned was that clients do not consider all assets the same. The one asset that consistently holds a very special place in the heart of a client is a pension. Clients express feeling a different sense of entitlement to their pension because:

  • They performed at a job where their lives, health and safety were placed in jeopardy;
  • They may have taken less in salary for the assurance of a pension in retirement;
  • They worked very hard for this particular asset, and the other spouse did not.

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Why Might the Spouse Who Deserves a Longer Term of Maintenance Not Receive It?
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Why Might the Spouse Who Deserves a Longer Term of Maintenance Not Receive It? | Clare Piro

(3:48 minutes to read} Even before the enactment of New York’s post-divorce maintenance statute, most mediators and attorneys worked with an informal but commonly accepted formula for determining the duration of maintenance based upon the length of the marriage. The longer the marriage, the longer the term of maintenance. The new statute now provides an advisory schedule, also based on the length of the marriage, for the court to consider in determining the term of maintenance. Paradoxically, however, a longer-term marriage, which would typically result in a longer term of support, may in fact do just the opposite. Why? Because the paying spouse may be likely to retire before the end of the term.

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Sometimes Resolution Comes After a Mediation
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Sometimes Resolution Comes After a Mediation|Clare Piro

{3:24 minutes to read} As with most people, there are some challenges that I welcome, and some that I dread. This goes for mediation as well. A challenging mediation isn’t necessarily challenging because one or both clients are difficult; for me, it’s often because the clients are so diametrically opposed that, no matter how many techniques and skills I use to help them resolve difficult situations, nothing seems to help. I’m talking about extreme situations where even my indefatigable optimism that conflict can be resolved is challenged.

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